Date of judgement:
15 October, 2020
Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy, M.R. Shah
Appellants – Satish Chandra Ahuja
Respondents – Sneha Ahuja
An appeal was filed by the petitioner against the order of the High Court which had set aside the Trial Court's order and sent back the matter for fresh adjudication. The case involved several questions of law relating to the Domestic Violence Act which were decided by the Supreme Court.
- The plaintiff, Satish Chandra filed an appeal against the order of the Delhi High Court setting aside the decree granted in the plaintiff's favour and sending back the case for adjudication to the Trial Court.
- The petitioner's son and the respondent, Sneha Ahuja were married to each other. However, after some time the relations became strained.
- Subsequently, the respondent's son filed divorce petition on grounds of cruelty.
- Sneha also filed an appeal under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act alleging that cruelty was inflicted upon her. She had impleaded her husband as respondent number 1 and the plaintiff (in the present case) as respondent number 2.
- Satish Chandra filed a suit for the removal of Sneha from the suit premises on the grounds that she had occupied two rooms along with attached dressing rooms and bath rooms and kitchen on the ground floor.
- He pleaded that he was a 76-year-old senior citizen who suffered from heart disease and hypertension. He contended that the defendant had filed frivolous cases against the petitioner and his wife in response to their son's suit for divorce.
- The petitioner further contended that the daughter-in-law's status of occupation was permissive in nature and she could not claim a right of residence against her father-in-law.
- The defendant, on the other hand, contended that the suit property was acquired through joint family funds and as such she had the right of residence in the property.
- The Trial Court ruled in favour of the plaintiff and granted permanent and mandatory injunction.
- The defendant filed an appeal before the Delhi High Court which sent the matter back to the Trial Court for fresh adjudication. The High Court was of the opinion that the Trial Court had not effectively considered the pending domestic violence suit filed by the defendant.
- The High Court stated that as per the DV Act, the aggrieved person, who proves that she endured domestic violence, retains the right to reside in the place where she earlier resided, irrespective of ownership.
Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
Domestic Violence Act
- Section 19: Residence Orders
- Whether shared household means only the household of join family or such household in which the husband has an interest?
- Whether the judgment of S.R. Batra and Anr. Vs. Taruna Batra, (2007) 3 SCC 169 was correct in its interpretation of Section 2(s) of DV Act?
- Whether the High Court was correct in its judgement?
- The appellant contended that the suit property was not a shared household and hence neither the son nor the daughter in law have any right in it. The appellant contended that the High Court did not consider the judgment of S. R. Batra Vs. Taruna Batra, which was binding on the High Court.
- The respondent, on the other hand contended that the suit premises were a shared property and she had the right to reside in it. Furthermore, the protection under Section 19 is available in all the cases, irrespective of the nature of proceedings.
- Primarily, the Court observed that the enactment of the 2005 Act was a milestone in protection of the rights of the persons aggrieved by domestic violence.
- The Court noted that the definition of shared household under Section 2(s) is exhaustive.
- In order to be considered a shared household, what needs to be established is that the aggrieved person lives or has lived in the household in a domestic relationship. Secondly, it must belong to the joint family and the respondent must be part of the joint family.
- Further, the Court noted that in the case of S.R. Batra and Anr. Vs. Taruna Batra, (2007) 3 SCC 169, the respondent was not residing in the premises in question.
- The Court noted that the expression "at any stage has lived" is for the purpose of ensuring that the women is not denied the right of residence merely because on the date of filing of application, she did not reside at the suit property.
- This expression is not meant to give a right of residence to the women in every place where she resided with her husband's relatives. The Court thus held "that shared household referred to in Section 2(s) is the shared household of aggrieved person where she was living at the time when application was filed or in the recent past had been excluded from the use or she is temporarily absent."
- The Court concluded that the judgment of S.R. Batra and Anr. Vs. Taruna Batra, (2007) 3 SCC 169 does not lay down the correct law.
- The Court further observed that the right under Section 19 is nor indefeasible. The Court needs to ensure that the senior citizens are not haunted and are entitled to peaceful living.
- The Court held that the defendant's claim that she had right of residence in the shared suit proceedings ought to have been considered by the Trial Court. The Court agreed with the High Court's view that the Trial Court must have considered the right under Section 19.
The Court subsequently dismissed the appeal while holding that the Delhi High Court had rightly set aside the Trial Court's judgment. This case is a landmark case where the true meaning and intent of the expression - shared household - as provided under Section 2(s) was laid down by the Court.
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